Over the last week, Joe Biden has issued a number of statements in response to the women saying his trademark overly familiar manner of touching has made them uncomfortable. Some of those statements were carefully constructed; others seemed more off-the-cuff, thought the wording was still no doubt carefully chosen. One word that didn’t appear in any of those statements was “sorry.” And the reason for that is simple: Because he’s not.
Following a speech to the electrical workers’ union Friday, he spoke to reporters and naturally, the subject came up. When asked if he thinks he “owes these women a direct apology” for how he made them feel, he responded, “The fact of the matter is I made it clear that if I made anyone feel uncomfortable, I feel badly about that. It was never my intention. Ever, ever, ever.”
The reporters pushed the issue and asked directly, “Are you sorry for the way you behaved?” And the answer is no.
“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more,” he said. “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I have never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman. That’s not the reputation I’ve had since I was in high school, for God’s sakes.”
REPORTER: Do you think you owe these women a direct apology who have come forward so far?
BIDEN: “I made it clear that if I made anyone feel uncomfortable, I feel bad about that”
R: But an apology?
B: “I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions” pic.twitter.com/FHV1nPkVAv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
If any textbooks are in need of the perfect example of an I’m sorry you felt that way non-apology, here it is. No one is questioning his intentions. No one is questioning his high school reputation. He seems desperate to maintain his image and identity as a “good” man, as if he would be disqualified from holding the title of Good Man if he were to fully acknowledge that even with pure intentions, his actions hurt women–which, let’s be clear, is different from women feeling hurt in proximity to his actions.
This is a very different situation, but it is reminiscent of the comments he recently made regarding Anita’s horrible treatment during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Biden recently said “To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something,” apparently forgetting that as Senate Judiciary Chairman at the time, he was in full control of that hearing. Biden’s view of his own life seems to have a disconnect between intention and action, as if because he has good intentions, any negative reaction to his actions has to be due to outside forces.
Biden was asked if this week’s news will change the way he campaigns and he said yes (despite not actually having yet announced his campaign), once again–as he did in his non-apology video–changing the subject to selfies. He says everyone wants a selfie these days but he insists on taking them instead of letting the other person do it because “you have to wonder what everything’s being used for.”
Either that’s a bizarre tangent or those two issues—the women speaking out against his touching and the worry over selfies getting misappropriated—are linked in his mind because he, like so many others, think that these women’s statements are not genuine, but part of a manufactured smear campaign to make something innocent look untoward.
Despite his statements insisting he “gets it” and that he respects the women speaking out, Biden has made it clear he doesn’t actually have much respect for what they’re saying. During that speech Friday, he turned the issue into a joke.
Biden comes on stage and hugs IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson.
“I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie,” Biden says, to uproarious applause from the (mostly male) crowd.
— Nidhi Prakash (@nidhiprakash) April 5, 2019
He thought it was such a funny joke, in fact, that he repeated it.
— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) April 5, 2019
Biden doesn’t get to have it both ways. He doesn’t get to insist that he respects women and then turn their brave decision to speak out into a joke. There will be plenty of people saying that this doesn’t matter because it’s just a joke. But jokes can be used as a way to strategically devalue someone.
When women talk about the every day indignities we face – the too close hugs, the shoulder rubs – a huge hurdle is the fear that we’ll be accused of overreacting. That we’ll be laughed at. Biden is proving that fear correct.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) April 5, 2019
This stuff today isn’t Biden making gaffes, it’s a deliberate strategy to appeal to older/less-woke Democrats. https://t.co/KtUbU00FNA
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 5, 2019
There is exactly one way for Biden make it out of this gracefully:
The wisest thing @JoeBiden could do to preserve his legacy as a champion of supporting women at this point would be to bow out and endorse one of the highly qualified women running. https://t.co/LkQ4Oa3ugR
— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) April 5, 2019
I doubt he would actually do that. Biden has proven that loves respecting women right up until the moment it interferes with what he was already going to do anyway. But we can hope.
(image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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